Loganberry by Brambleberry Yarns

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I’m clipping the end of the week here, but going along with my new desire to share more with you about the yarn I chose for my latest pattern revisit, Leaf Stole, I’m squeezing this in before the busy weekend!
I first approached Cynthia, of Brambleberry Yarns, almost a year ago with the idea to collaborate on a pattern. I came to know of her via the blog Small Things, and always admired the colour and natural tone Ginny’s projects carried. Brambleberry Yarns are all naturally dyed, and she uses only the most exquisite natural fibers. The swatch I worked up using fingering weight, rather than the worsted Leaf Stole was originally written for, was initially 100% wool. It had a great stitch definition but lacked the drape I wanted for this summer stole. Cynthia suggested her Loganberry base which is half silk, half merino, which would add a lot more fluidity to the finished knit. The result is perfection. Leaf Stole has the ability to look just perfect anyway it falls.

©Brambleberry Yarns

©Brambleberry Yarns

©Brambleberry Yarns

©Brambleberry Yarns

©Brambleberry Yarns

©Brambleberry Yarns

©Brambleberry Yarns

©Brambleberry Yarns

Similarly to me and my natural dying approach Cynthia uses plants from around her house and home to dye her yarns. She loves to experiment and see what pigments can be uncovered, and her results have so much depth and beauty, her work is everything I love about plant dyes.
To connect you even more with the yarn I used, I asked Cynthia to answer a few questions to share more about her work.

Annie : Firstly, can you tell us a little about Brambleberry Yarns, what it does and why it exists?
BBY : Brambleberry Yarns came to be as a gradual progression over the years. I have always had a love affair with plants and gardening- herbs in particular. Growing herbs and studying all their amazing uses was (and still is) a fulltime passion of mine. I was attending school for horticulture while working at an herb farm over ten years ago (yikes!) when I took up knitting during a stressful period in my life. Very quickly I learned how I could dye my yarns for my knitting with herbs from my garden and I was completely hooked. It eventually got to the point where I had more yarns than I knew what to do with from all of my experiments! On a whim I decided to try selling a few yarns and was very pleasantly surprised by the reaction I received from others. Brambleberry Yarns just took off from there.

Where do you get the inspiration for new dye plants and colours?
Inspiration mostly comes from just looking outside or wandering through my garden. I cannot look at a plant now and not wonder what color I might achieve from it if I tried using it as a dye! I especially enjoy gathering noxious, nonnative weeds and putting them to use in my dye pots. Japanese knotweed for example, is just horrible when it comes to taking over where I live but I discovered from experimenting that I could obtain a really nice rosy color from its roots.

I love the drape this silk/merino blend we used for this leaf stole – what other bases do you carry?
A major staple in my yarns is my organic merino base that I carry in both worsted and fingering weight. I also carry a blend of silk and merino in lace weight.  I am always experimenting with new bases though so what is in the shop is always evolving.

Where can we find your yarns?
Occasionally I will sell my yarns in local open air markets but mostly my yarns can be found online through my shop www.brambleberryyarns.com

Finally, do you love to knit or crochet? Where is your favourite place or time of day to do it?
I would say I love to knit and crochet! There is always something on my needles or hooks or spinning wheel – mostly I have too many projects going at once! I love to knit in front of the fireplace during the winter months but for the most part I love to knit or spin where I have a nice view of the garden or tress. As far as to a time of day that I enjoy these pastimes? Pretty much whenever I can manage to squeeze in the time is my favorite time!


Revisiting : Leaf Stole

KBP-66KBP-53header KBP-48Next up on my pattern do-overs is the Leaf Stole. What was once a worsted weight, warm and snuggly wrap, I have tweaked the pattern oh so slightly with a fingering weight yarn to become the most luxurious thing you’ll ever have around your body! Brambleberry Yarns Loganberry base was amazing to work with. Half silk, half washable merino, not only does the stitch definition blow my mind, but the drape is just a dream! I’ve found that anyway I sling it over my shoulders it falls perfectly. You can bunch it together and wrap it around scarf-like, or open to display the full width and show off the stitch pattern as a stole. The cool weight of the silk is just what you need in summer evenings spent outside, and with the amount of fabric you get once all said and done, you should be able to cosy up with someone else too! Here’s the details!

Yarn : 3 skeins Loganberry by Brambleberry Yarns; 50% silk/50% superwash merino; 435yds, 3.5oz; photographed in ‘Honey’.
Needles : US 6 [4mm] needles, or size needed to obtain gauge, 16” circular.
Gauge : 22 sts and 33 rows = 4 inches/10cm in stitch pattern, BLOCKED.
Notions : Tapestry needle.
Sizes : One size.
Measurements : 18.5” wide x 80” long

I am SO SO SO grateful to have been introduced to a new friend, Krista, these past few weeks. Not only because she’s a complete nutcase, but she is also the most amazing photographer! It was impossible for me to whittle the shots down to just a few… so here’s some more.

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Check back later on in the week for more information about the yarn used… and there might be some more photos…

Returned knits

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.. not in a bad way, promise! When we were able to catch up with my family at Christmas – my siblings coming together from all over the world – my sister-in-law brought with her one of the Clara Dresses I had made for my niece a few years back. We had chosen the pattern together, and I’m pretty sure I had worked from my stash using up some Frog Tree Pediboo in the most berry-yummy purple. It was a fun knit (not the quickest) and I just loved how it came out. This pattern is so pretty. I popped it in the mail, sending it miles and miles away, and when it arrived it was quickly discovered that there is one big problem. The neck opening is SMALL.

If you look on ravelry its a common problem, the opening just doesn’t offer much in the way of stretching over an often-larger-than-you-might-think baby head. At the time I had no baby on hand to try out the knit and hadn’t noticed the problem (and went on to fix said problem with another dress… and adjusted the yoke to have a much bigger opening).
But the problem is back in my hands. Lou has managed to wear this number a few times whilst I could squeeze it over her head but its amazing how quickly those noggin’s grow! The chest is nice and wide, and the skirt full, so we definitely have some time in it yet – if it weren’t for the neck!
Short of using my machine to sew along either side of the the opening, going deeper, cutting (!) a bigger slit, and crocheting an edge to cover up my mess stitching, I’m not really sure what else to do. Any thoughts?

Ps. told you purple is the ‘pink’ in this household!!

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DSC_0078 DSC_0086DSC_0009 DSC_0024 DSC_0034DSC_0026 DSC_0056 DSC_0065DSC_0001 So, February flew by! Between road trips and work on the farm kicking up a notch (babies, babies, babies), already a week or so into March and I feel like I’m only just catching up. Bright, clear days and the recent time change have brought along a sturdy feeling of spring here in Northern CA and I’m starting to think about planting our garden and if we want meat birds or more laying hens this season (maybe both?).

My knitting time has been a bit unpredictable the past few weeks, but it turns out I actually have a few finished projects to share, probably because they are pint size knits. The first is the Sophie Blouse which was a surprisingly quick knit. The result is a great little top, perfect for slipping over anything (pj’s!) to add an extra layer of warmth. In fact this top gets so much use that it has been worn, loved and washed already before I got around to getting any FO shots. The yarn is MCN Twist Fingering ‘Victorian’ by Northbound Knitting, and although there is quite a bit of piling, my love of the colourway overrides that, and between all the holding and cuddling, baby knits are going to be heavy handed anyway. The pattern is very straight forward, and I knit it as is. I’m excited for Nikki Van de Car‘s new book for toddlers, as I have knit a lot out of her first one. (this, this and this)

Next up for our little one was a project I should have been putting off for more important things, but the excitement of working on it won me over! The pattern is Fairy SnowCap by Rosemary (Romi) Hill, part of The Great Oddments Knitdown, and I don’t mind if this is the only pattern I make from the whole collection, it was worth every single penny… cent! I shrunk the pattern down to fit about an 18″ head. I don’t wear hats, the curls keeps me plenty warm, and I’d rather be able to see this hat than have to find a mirror to view the beautiful pattern – its perfect on her! I used a worsted weight yarn, Erin by Imperial Yarns in ‘Sweet Plum’, and worked on US 5 and US 3 size needles. After finishing the hat as written I felt like it needed a few more rows of the twisted rib to cover up her ears. The sewn bind off was a special treat, I love any fancy finishing. It was the first time for me using pom pom maker – genius things! – and although the result is a little over the top and could probably use a bit of trimming, I think I’m going to leave it as it is!!

As for more the important things, I’m working away on new patterns and still revisiting the older ones. Things have been a bit neglected so its a month to catch up!

Drive time

DSC_0007DSC_0011 DSC_0003DSC_0006 DSC_0001We are spending a lot of time in the car this month. Luckily two of our three road trips are to see friends and take a mini break, but either way sweater knitting has been postponed and I have dug out some smaller projects to take with me.

I started these socks, Simplicity, to learn how to work socks toe up… and two at a time. Yes, that is a lot all at once, and yes, they are taking forever – I feel so clumsy each round. I don’t know if I even like knitting socks but I know that I suffer from second sleeve syndrome, hence trying the two at a time thing. There just seems to be so much shuffling around the needles. I’m ready to start the heel and I still haven’t got into a rhythm. I do like the toe up method though. Maybe I need to take this class. Oh, and the yarn is gross. I’m trying to use up stash and cast on using Patons Stretch Socks yarn which contains 7% elastic. Its the strangest knitting experience. Thankfully they look better on… I’ll keep going – I think these will be the first socks I’ve made. And I know I shouldn’t let this pair ruin my view of sock knitting, I keep dreaming of all the amazing sock yarn I have tucked away, maybe they’ll motivate me to finish these beauties.

That brown chunky yarn? Yet another attempt to begin the search for the perfect hat for Mister. I have never knit him anything (what?), and he wears hats all the time (erm, hello?) so I decided for Christmas to knit him a hat, which I then burnt (yes, I did that), but it turned out to be too small, yet he liked the pattern, so I’m going to redo with an extra 8 sts. It’s a super fast knit.

So that’s a project for me, for him, and now one for the baby. This NBK yarn was once going to be Ruffaluffagus, but it turns out when you neglect a baby project for too long the baby grows, and your project no longer fits. I still love that pattern but I only have one skein of this yarn, not enough for a bigger size… and want to knit with the yarn more! This colorway is amazing, just the right amount of pink. I’m swatched and ready to cast on Sophie Blouse by Nikki Van De Car.

I’ll be knitting away the miles!


Straight needles

DSC_0073 DSC_0078 DSC_0131 DSC_0141 DSC_0145 DSC_0154 DSC_0180The other week I had a bit of a revelation. I thought that the love for straight needles was well and truely dead. When seeing them in a yarn store I always wonder how long they have been sitting there. But a full set, from 2 3/4mm to 7 1/2mm, came home with me from our Christmas in England, and as I planned to cast on a new project for our little one I thought I’d try them out. I was hard pushed to remember the last time I used them, but I know I definitely taught myself to knit using them. I posted on instagram and facebook and queried weather people still knit with straight needles or not. Turns out there is a love/hate relationship. Some people don’t even own any, some just plain love them.

Me? Well I thought a baby sized cardigan would be a good experiment, to see how I feel about them. First I had to read through the whole pattern – which, of course, is never a bad thing – but I had to think in terms of weather or not I could master the pattern on straight needles. Worked in one piece from back to front and seamed under the sleeves it turns out, for this cardigan, I could, and I cast on right away… It was a bit awkward to begin with, I felt like every stitch I was going to poke an eye out, and I kept smirking as I couldn’t help thinking how I looked like the ‘stereotypical’ knitter (whatever that means) clicking away, needles flapping like wings. But I got in my grove and finished the back of the sweater. As I cast on stitches at either side for the sleeves to grow it definitively got a bit crowded on my needles, but decided I’d rather that then add any more inches to the threatening eye weapon. I cast off for the neck and begun working down the left front, and it is only at this time at which I lost the other needle. Only once in the whole project was I fumbling around for the unattached needle. I surprised myself! I finished off the other front and picked up the stitches around the neck and fronts to finish the collar. This took cramming the stitches on the needle to another level but we got there in the end. Conclusion? I don’t hate them, but I don’t love ‘em. Perhaps for the perfect project, maybe a scarf? Maybe they just felt strange because I’m not used to them, but I’m definitely more at home with my circulars. What about you?

Pattern : Baby Ribbed Jacket by Debbie Bliss (FREE)

Yarn : Plymouth Yarn Worsted Merino Superwash Kettle Dyed (oh and I could do a whole ‘nother post on superwash yarn, ugh, can’t say I like the stuff, and this blocking experience reminded me why I avoid it. But I won’t go on and on because it all worked out, the crazy growth disappeared as it dried.)

Woolen-Spun Cormo by ElsaWool

DSC_0006 DSC_0101I’m really excited to share with you a new feature I plan to have alongside every pattern. In the hopes of connecting you more with the yarn we spend so much of our time knitting with, I will dedicate a post to the yarn used, the company who produces it, and sometimes the face of the farmer behind the wool!
Stepping Stitches, which I revisited this week, uses three skeins of Elsawool’s Woolen-Spun 100% Cormo wool yarn. This 2ply yarn is bouncy and elastic, and left in it’s natural colour it has the incredible rustic heatherd look of the fleece. But no scratchy farm wool here – Cormo wool is incredibly soft, and this yarn is divine! It’s so warm and buttery, you want to bury your cheeky right in it.

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Above images all © Elsawool www.wool-clothing.com

Just spending a few moments on Elsawool’s website you can tell that there is a lot of pride in their work. Elsawool provides high quality 100% Cormo products, from yarn, to sweaters, shawls and socks, and it is evident that incredible care and attention to detail is taken every step of the way. Even the yarn label goes above and beyond to explain how to properly care for your finished knit.
So here is the fun part, rather than me blab on about how much I love this yarn, I asked Elsa, who kindly agreed, to answer a few questions about her work, her wool and her lifestyle…

 Annie : Firstly can you tell us a little about Elsawool, what it does and why it exists?
Elsa : Elsawool came into existence for several reasons. First, I saw a need for good quality yet affordable wool clothing. Second, my life and my livelihood always have revolved around animals. I grew up on a farm, always kept a lot of animals, managed a pet farm, and worked as a veterinary nurse. Third, I’ve been involved with crafts all my life. All these factors converged in 1983, and I began keeping fiber animals, and having their fleeces made into yarns and knitted clothing and other products.

So why Cormo sheep? You don’t have to have a skein of 100% Cormo wool in your hands long to fall head over heals for it, but what makes it so special?
The Cormo breed was developed in Tasmania from Corriedale rams and superfine Merino ewes (Cor-mo). The superfine ewes contributed fineness and density to the wool, and the Corriedale rams added softness. Cormo wool is as fine as average merino wool, and it’s exceptionally soft. When I met my first Cormos and buried my hands into their fleeces I was surprised at how different from other fine wools the Cormo wool felt. After that, I never considered being involved with any other breed of sheep.

I love the light, bouncy feel of the woolen-spun yarn I used for this scarf, but you also offer a worsted-spun yarn. What is the difference between the two?
In the woolen spinning system, all the wool fibers (long and short) are carded and spun without putting the fibers in close alignment with each other. This system creates an airy, lofty, warm, absorbent, and cozy-feeling yarn.
In the worsted spinning system, the wool is carded, combed, drafted, and spun. Combing removes the short fibers and leaves only the longer fibers. Drafting aligns the fibers, making them parallel to each other and tightly packed together.  These processes result in dense, smooth, and strong yarns.
My worsted yarns are more expensive than my woolen yarns — because extra steps are required to make the yarns, and because only about 2/3 of the wool is used, and the other 1/3 is made into products of little monetary value.

All your yarn and fiber products are left in it’s natural color, and I love that. How hard is it for the mill to maintain the colours, or does it come down to when you sort and grade fleeces?…
The shades of gray are created at the mill by blending white wool with black and gray wools. Because the fleeces vary in color and shade from year to year, we’re not able to predict the exact color and shade we’ll get from each blend of white and dark wool. But we’re able to get very close to the shade we want.

Have you ever thought of dying your yarn?
I don’t plan on dyeing any of my yarn.  I leave that to others. Several dyers buy yarns from me, dye them, and sell the dyed yarns.

I understand you also buy from a flock from Montana but how many sheep do you run? How many times a year do you shear?
Fine wool sheep are shorn once a year.
I used to run 200 – 300 or more sheep. Shortly after I bought the first Cormos, I saw health problems in some of them. Later I learned that they had come to me with OPP, which is an incurable and fatal virus. After trying unsuccessfully for 7 years to eradicate this disease from my flock, I gave up. I stopped breeding the sheep and let each ewe live until she had to be put down. Now my beloved Cormos are no more. I’ve been buying Cormo wool from a family in Montana.  These people were among the first to import Cormos to the US, and they produce very good wool. My hope is to start a new flock some day.

How far do the fleeces travel to be spun into yarn?
My wool travels first from Colorado and Montana to a scouring mill in Texas, where it is washed. Some of the washed wool goes to Wisconsin and is spun into woolen yarns, and some goes to New England to be spun into worsted yarns. After that, some of the yarns are sent to other states and are knitted into clothing.

Where can we find your yarn?
You can find my yarns and clothing at www.wool-clothing.com, and also at the Wool Festival at Taos on the first full week-end of October.

What is a day in the life of Elsa?
Until recently my days were spent mostly outdoors — caring for the sheep and goats and guard dogs, tending the land, and building and maintaining barns, fences, roads, etc.. Without the sheep, most of my days are now focused on designing, making, and selling Cormo wool products.

Thanks Elsa!